Craigslist blocks search engines to thwart third parties like PadMapper

By on August 7, 2012, 6:30 PM

Craigslist has taken further steps toward locking down its listings by reportedly removing its content from major search engines to prevent it from being scraped and repackaged by third-party services. In June, Craigslist sent a cease and desist to PadMapper, an aggregator that gathers apartment listings from various sites, including Craigslist, and offers a user-friendly way to navigate the data via Google Maps.

PadMapper complied with that request, but quickly found a clever workaround. Instead of scraping the data directly from Craigslist, PadMapper enlisted the aid of 3taps, a service that collects cached info from search engines. By scraping the data from Google, services like PadMapper should've theoretically avoided what Craigslist once claimed to be its primary complaint: third-party services that waste its bandwidth.

Unfortunately for aggregators, that circumvention wasn't satisfactory. Craigslist filed suit against PadMapper and 3taps late last month, weeks after the apartment-mapping site reintroduced Craigslist classifieds. In addition to the suit, it was discovered last week that Craigslist updated its policy to deem itself the "exclusive licensee" of user-submitted content, preventing it from being republished on other sites.

Despite facing a lawsuit, PadMapper and 3taps continued business as usual over the last two weeks, so Craigslist has supposedly moved to thwart their activity by removing certain classified content from search engines. According to 3taps, the change was made sometime Sunday afternoon and has effectively disabled third-party services who rely on Craigslist's data -- unless another workaround is developed.

"We are sorry that CL has chosen this course of action and are exploring options to restore service but may be down for an extended period of time unless we or CL change practices. As soon as we know more, we will share it here and on our Twitter account," 3taps wrote. PadMapper and Craigslist have yet to comment on the move, though both sides might be hesitant to make public statements given the pending suit.

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